- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 15

The Island Packet of Hilton Head on lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew:

Hurricane Matthew raked Beaufort County with the power to twist oak trees like shoelaces, destroy marinas and gobble vast chunks of shoreline.

Parts of the islands look like a tornado ripped through. We take photographs of giant pines and oaks fallen onto rooftops, sometimes four or more on a single home, only to realize a camera cannot capture its full scope.

For decades, we have feared this day. But we spent a lot of those years thinking about it and preparing for it. Our study and experience tells us this was not the big one, not the land-leveler of Hurricanes Hugo or Andrew. The largest dividend of our collective preparation is that no lives were lost here to Hurricane Matthew.

As the reality begins to seep in, we need to:

Be patient. That often seems as likely as getting a hurricane to calm down. But in many ways, the storm is just beginning. We have a long way to go, yet we tend to want everything finished yesterday. We must be patient in the cleanup, especially with chainsaws in hand. And remember that cleanups can take years.

Be realistic. It is not realistic to think more than 50,000 customers can have electricity restored immediately. Or that a barrier island can be immediately open to residents after such a storm. But we seem to expect it. We think Uncle Sam can or will snap a finger and fix everything today. Take a deep breath, and understand that this is not make-believe. Restoration takes time.

Be appreciative. Stop to think how much has been done so quickly - roads cleared, water running, stores open, power restored, trees removed, yards cleaned. Appreciate all the planning and personal sacrifice it took to achieve this in mere hours. It required a complex web involving all levels of government, as well as utilities, first-responders, business owners and property owners’ associations. If you look at Hilton Head Plantation, as one example, and fathom the high number of trees that were blocking roads last Sunday morning and realize that residents returned on Tuesday afternoon, it’s mind-blowing. We must appreciate the staggering efforts by so many across Beaufort County to get our impatient selves this close to normal this quickly.

Be helpful. One silver lining is that the storm has pulled people out of their homes to meet each other, support each other and help each other. Individuals, new groups, old groups and countless institutions are now working for something greater than themselves. The worst thing we could do is overlook the widows, sick and elderly. Everyone must help someone else in some way.

Be attentive. We have plenty of time to hash and rehash what went right and what went wrong. Now is the time to pay attention to find those lessons and not be defensive, so that next time we can be even better. State, county and municipal governments can learn from Hurricane Matthew, and so can utilities, schools, churches, businesses and individual households. We each need to be attentive to what we can do better.

Be thankful. Even as we are only beginning to take stock of all the expenses, losses and hardships - we also should be thankful. We’re still here. We’re still strong. And we have an opportunity to show the world our mettle, our class, and our style.

Online: https://www.islandpacket.com/

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Oct. 16

The Herald of Rock Hill on reducing domestic violence:

South Carolina’s rate of domestic violence is headed in the right direction. But the state still must maintain its focus on significantly reducing this scourge.

The annual report by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., ranked South Carolina fifth in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men in 2014. While that represents a welcome drop from first in the nation, the state’s rate of violence against women still is significantly higher than the national average.

South Carolina has a dismal record of deadly violence against women. In 2013, the state ranked first in the nation for the fourth time.

Even with the drop to fifth place in 2014, that was the 19th consecutive year the state had ranked in the top 10.

On Oct. 4, mourners gathered at the Statehouse to memorialize the 47 lives lost to domestic violence last year. At the ceremony, organizers placed silhouettes on the Statehouse steps representing the victims - 35 red ones for the women 12 blue for the men and one purple silhouette representing unknown victims.

One reaction might be to throw up our hands and declare that domestic violence is an inescapable part or our culture, that it is our destiny. But that would be totally unacceptable.

If such violence is part of our culture - and that undoubtedly is a factor - we need to change the culture. And one way to begin doing that is to change the law.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a substantive domestic violence bill that increased penalties for those convicted of domestic violence and gave judges more options in sentencing. The effort had the support of both Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, as well as a variety of victim advocate groups who lobbied hard for the reforms.

In addition to changes in the law, more money was allocated for new prosecutors to handle domestic violence cases. Many of those cases still are prosecuted by law enforcement officers who often have to go up against privately funded attorneys on the defense side.

In 2014, Haley created a task force designed to study the causes of domestic violence and find ways to reduce it. That panel produced dozens of recommendations, including training more 911 operators to deal with domestic violence calls, improving crime scene documentation and increasing the number of shelters for battered women and their children statewide.

Changing the culture of violence against women may be more difficult than changing the law but just as necessary. For one thing, the state needs to find ways to teach young males nonviolent ways to resolve domestic disputes.

We need to teach law enforcement officers the most effective ways to handle cases of domestic abuse in the field and, later, when questioning victims and suspects. We need to encourage friends and neighbors to report domestic abuse when they see evidence of it.

We hope the ranking for 2014 represents a positive trend, not just a statistical anomaly. We hope it is a result of the efforts taken to address this problem.

But while it represents progress, South Carolina has a long way to go. With hard work, maybe the state can end its shameful legacy of violence against women.

Online: https://www.heraldonline.com/

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Oct. 17

The Times & Democrat of Orangeburg on absentee voting and early voting:

Around the country, voters are casting ballots in the election for president. Not so in South Carolina, at least by a formal early-voting process.

State lawmakers to date have not made a change in election law to authorize early voting. Despite arguments that casting ballots up to a month before Election Day further opens the voting process and makes for shorter lines and a smoother operation on the second Tuesday in November, previous early-voting proposals have fallen victim to the battle over voter identification requirements. And there is also the stated belief by lawmakers that early voting, particularly in June primaries, puts them at a disadvantage with time to campaign after the end of the legislative session.

Critics of early voting also have new ammunition this year in contending that no voter should cast a ballot until the campaign is complete, as seemingly every day brings new revelations that could impact a person’s decision on a choice for president.

It’s hard to see South Carolina in the long term not joining the early-voting majority. But in the meantime, state law does not require that all voters wait until Election Day to cast ballots. In South Carolina, voting by absentee ballot is de facto early voting.

The eligibility requirements to vote absentee are not stringent, and obtaining a ballot to do so really amounts to simply making a request.

Persons qualified to vote by absentee ballot are:

1. Members of the armed forces or merchant marine serving outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them.

2. Persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organizations who are attached to and serving with the armed forces outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them.

3. Overseas citizens.

4. Persons who are physically disabled.

5. Students attending school outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them.

6. Persons who for reasons of employment will not be able to vote on Election Day.

7. Government employees serving outside their county of residence on Election Day and their spouses and dependents residing with them.

8. Persons who plan to be on vacation outside their county of residence on Election Day.

9. Persons serving as a juror in state or federal court on Election Day.

10. Persons admitted to the hospital as emergency patients on Election Day or within a four-day period before the election.

11. Persons with a death or funeral in the family within three days before the election.

12. Persons confined to a jail or pre-trial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial.

13. Persons attending sick or physically disabled persons.

14. Certified poll watchers, poll managers and county election officials working on Election Day.

15. Persons 65 years of age or older.

16. Persons who for religious reasons do not want to vote on a Saturday (presidential primaries only).

Just about everyone can find a reason to fit into one of the categories if he or she chooses. But the person still must make the effort to obtain the absentee ballot.

That means visiting the county voter registration office in your county of residence to complete an application and cast your ballot. You may vote absentee in person up until 5 p.m. on the day before the election. Rules for photo ID apply.

To vote absentee by mail, you can request an application for yourself or an immediate family member from the county voter registration office in your county of residence by phone, mail, email or fax. You then will be mailed an application.

A person may also get the application online at https://info.scvotes.sc.gov/eng/voterinquiry/VoterInformationRequest.aspx?PageMode=AbsenteeRequest. It must then be printed.

Once the application is either received by mail or printed, it must be completed, signed and returned to the county voter registration office. It must be returned no later than 5 p.m. on the fourth day prior to the election (the fourth day is Friday for all Tuesday elections). You may return the application by mail, email, fax, or personal delivery.

When the ballot is received by mail, it is to be completed and returned to the county voter registration office by 7 p.m. on the day of the election.

If you for some reason cannot vote on Election Day, take steps now to get your ballot and cast it early by the absentee method.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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